Princess Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia and Electress Palatine

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Princess Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia and Electress Palatine

by Robert Peake the Elder
oil on canvas, circa 1610
67 1/2 in. x 38 1/8 in. (1713 mm x 968 mm)
Purchased, 1991
Primary Collection
NPG 6113

On display in Room 4 on Floor 3 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Robert Peake the Elder (circa 1551-1619), Portrait and decorative painter. Artist or producer associated with 7 portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Portraits, p. 30
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), p. 124 Read entry

    When James VI of Scotland ascended the throne of England as James I in 1603, one of the major factors in the optimism felt by the English public was the fact that James, unlike his predecessor Elizabeth I, had a family: an heir, a 'spare' and a marriageable daughter. Henry Prince of Wales was seen as a particularly promising prince. Brave, handsome, clever, athletic, noble, cultured and ardently Protestant, he became the focus for courtiers who advocated a more militant foreign policy, and for those who sought to make London a great cultural centre in Europe. His unexpected death from typhoid fever at the age of eighteen led to widespread grief, both within his family and among the wider population.

    Elizabeth, James's daughter, was also a focus for hope and expectation, and an important pawn in the game of international royal marriage negotiations. She was married at the age of sixteen to Frederick, Elector Palatine, a German Protestant prince from Heidelberg. In 1619, Frederick took the disastrous decision to accept the throne of Bohemia, and he and Elizabeth moved to Prague, where they reigned for less than a year before being ousted by the armies of the Roman Catholic Habsburg emperor, Ferdinand II. The rest of Elizabeth's life, much of it as a widow, was lived in exile in The Hague, where she worked hard to keep her plight and that of her children in the minds of her allies, and came to symbolise militant Protestantism as the tragic 'Winter Queen'.

    Robert Peake, the artist, jointly held the post of Serjeant Painter. He was responsible for much of the decorative painting at court, but also painted numerous portraits of the royal children. He shows Henry in a pose and setting that echo those in a portrait of Edward VI, his predecessor as Prince of Wales. The view through the window is thought to represent the grounds of Richmond Palace, which Henry had redesigned. Peake's portrait of Elizabeth, like that of her brother (NPG 4515), draws attention to her rich clothing and jewellery, including a ruby and diamond brooch pinned to her hair, and a diamond chain across her chest, advertising her eligibility as a wealthy and beautiful potential bride.

  • Edited by Rab MacGibbon and Tanya Bentley, Icons and Identities, 2021, p. 72
  • Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 59
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 203
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 68 Read entry

    Elizabeth, named after her godmother Elizabeth I, was the daughter of James VI of Scotland and I of England. The first royal princess in England for fifty years, she was the focus of much attention and expectation. As a child, she was briefly in danger of abduction by the Gunpowder Plotters, who planned to place her on the throne as a Catholic puppet queen, after blowing up her father and older brother in the House of Lords.

    At the age of sixteen, Elizabeth was married to Frederick, Elector Palatine, a German Protestant prince. Frederick took the disastrous decision to accept the throne of Bohemia in 1619, moving with Elizabeth from their palace in Heidelberg to Prague, where they reigned for less than a year before being ousted by the armies of the Catholic Habsburg emperor, Ferdinand. The rest of Elizabeth’s life, much of it as a widow, was lived in exile in The Hague, where she became seen as a symbol of militant Protestantism: the tragic ‘Winter Queen’.

    The English artist Robert Peake (c.1551–1619) depicts the young princess with a fashionable high, wired, hairstyle and wearing various expensive jewels, including a long diamond chain worn across her chest. The portrait advertises Elizabeth’s wealth, beauty and status, using a pose associated from the early sixteenth century with potential royal brides.

Events of 1610back to top

Current affairs

Lady Arabella Stuart, cousin of James I, secretly marries William Seymour, Marquess of Hertford.
James I's chaotic finances prompts Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury to submit to Parliament the great contract which proposed increases to the king's income for James's relinquishment of his feudal rights; however, it was not implemented.

Art and science

The Alchemist, by playwright Benjamin Jonson, is first performed by the acting troupe, the King's Men. Jonson also writes Prince Henry's Barriers, in honour of Henry, Prince of Wales.
Stationers' Company agrees to give Thomas Bodley a copy of every book registered with them for his growing Bodleian Library.


Henry IV, King of France, is assassinated in Paris by Catholic fanatic, François Ravaillac. Henry, born a Calvinist, converted to Catholicism before ascending the throne to appease his future subjects. Although a popular king, much loved by his people, two earlier attempts had been made on his life.

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